WEEDING

It is well and good to have the rain and heat, everything grows but certain plants grow better than other – like weeds.

It feels like painting the Forth bridge but even they don’t have to do this any more ! I, on the other hand, have to carry on with the weeding. I have finished the onion and garlic beds today – I wonder how long they’ll stay like this.

From this

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to this

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Only time will tell.

SUNNY DAY

I was reading my notes from last year, trying to see how behind I am with my planting. The result? At least two weeks. Never mind, my activity on Wednesday and today (18th and 20th April) almost caught up with last year.

One more plot finished, of course the same goes for this one as for the first one – the net cages are empty but the greenhouse in the back garden is filling up with seedlings that I will start transplanting as soon as the weather stabilises.

There are parsnips, strawberries, broad beans, globe artichokes, garlic and potatoes on this plot and one pear tree and two apple trees. The fig tree in front of the shed is doing well and my plan is to plant some more rooted cuttings of the fig there as well thus creating a little orchard. Who would have guessed that I would be able to grow and harvest figs!

A DAY IN THE KITCHEN….

….and the result is a lot of goodies.

First of all I had to boil the apples I picked on the allotment – thanks to the strong wind I managed to find quite a lot. That was done yesterday and it very slowly dripped overninght. I decided to make two savoury jellies – rosemary and garlic. I use a recipe in my favourite book – The preserving book – and use whatever I think might make good jelly. Garlic is a strong favourite.

Next was the making of some soup. As I have a lot of different vegetables on the allotment I try to use them all. My friend Anita recently gave me a great recipe book (you can’t have too many!) and this is the book I use now, very often.

It might not look exciting but it is very tasty. Wilted spinach and Stilton cheese.

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Last but not least was the turn of something quite different. When we went to Brazil some years ago, our friend Lucia taught me how to make their local delicacy – cheese balls. They are very easy to make and once made, impossible to stop eating!001

One good thing about them is that they can be made and frozen; when I need to serve them, say with soup or just as nibbles with wine, I take them out and bake.

All in all, a very productive day.

SECOND HALF OF MAY

Well, the weather isn’t too great but everything in the garden – or rather on the plot – is growing fine.

It was rather chaotic in the greenhouse and in the veranda at the back of the house – an organised chaos I must add. The veranda was used for hardening off all the plants before I took them to the farm to plant out and this method worked! Everything on the farm survived the move and is growing well.

Cabbages in the net tunnels, tomatoes, lettuce, Chinese lettuce, climbing beans are all fine. And then there are the hardy types who survived the winter out there – onions, shallots, garlic, strawberries, rhubarb and last but not least the potatoes and raddishes who are trying their best.

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TLC

…and a lot of hard work was the order of the day on the allotment today.

There was a plot on our site that nobody worked on. I thought that somebody wanted it and was going to start working there. I was wrong. It happens from time to time that people think they would like to have an allotment but when it comes to actually working on the plot, the reality hits them – it is quite a lot of work. This particular plot wasn’t overgrown with weeds – I know because it was mine last year. When I harvested the potatoes I dug it all over so it was in good order.

All the same, this person didn’t return so rather than to leave it neglected, I took it back and it is all ready and just waiting for good weather.

I had to clear some big drums , some were full of sand – this belonged to the chap before me who was into growing exhibition parsnips. Anyway, all the drums are gone, the sand neatly heaped to one side and the new space ready.

Because there was quite a bit of sand mixed with the soil I took an advantage of it and made it into a parsnip patch. We’ll see.

Next on the list was finishing planting some garlic – I had some tiny cloves, put them into grow cells, they rooted so now was the time to put them out, join the overwintered ones.

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Onion sets and shallots received the same treatment. The shallots were well rooted in the cells so they’ll have a head start. Then I planted some red onion sets but even though I thought I had enough I shall have to get some more. Work will continue…

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Last but not least was some work in my greenhouse when I got back home. I wanted to have some very early potatoes, decided on the variety. They’ve chitted well so they went into pots and will be kept in the greenhouse for now.

Then it was the small task of looking if all the seed trays are well watered and that’s that for today. Tomorrow is another day….010

JANUARY 2016

Things are looking up – I was able to spend some time in my greenhouse. I went to B&Q on Wednesday to buy a pot of paint to do some DIY in Mum’s bungalow and I ‘just happened’ to see some shallots. I already made the decision not to grow onions this year – they’re cheap enough to buy and I don’t want to use valuable land to grow them – but shallots are different. I actually prefer to use them in cooking. They’re just the right size, I don’t have half an onion just shrivelling in the fridge and the flavour is good too.

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They are quite simply planted in small pots so that they can develop good root system and when the weather improves¬† in the early spring I’ll plant them out on the allotment, they will have a head start.

I always grow garlic, the same reasoning applies here – it is not very cheap to buy it and the quantities I use would cost quite a bit. Besides, you can’t beat the taste of a home-grown garlic. I have got quite a bit of it already growing on the allotment but as a back up I used some of the smallest cloves and planted them in the cell tray. They’re doing quite well there and again, the same will happen with them, they’ll go out in the early spring.

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The weather was quite mild so far so my salad leaves are doing well in the greenhouse, even though it is not heated at all. It is just a simple salad leaf mix but very tasty and we can have it as we need it. Mum loves it and as she is trying to eat a healthy diet, this fits in very well.

WHAT A COINCIDENCE!

A few weeks ago I read an article in one of my gardening magazines about new garlic called Topinky Wight. An amazing coincidence as the article continued that this garlic was first grown in Czech Republic, near a town called Pilsen.

Well, I come from the Czech Republic and I lived in the town of Pilsen all my life, until I came to the UK in 1968. Of course I had to get it and try for myself.

I ordered 4 bulbs from my favourite company – D.T.Brown – and a few days later I was planting them on the allotment. I very much hope it’ll do well and I’m looking forward to using it in exactly the same way as the article describes.

I had 26 plump cloves of the new garlic to plant

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and here they are. Here’s hoping for a big harvest.

AUTUMN ACTIVITIES

Last night I couldn’t sleep so as I was lying in bed I was thinking what to do next on the allotment (what else?!)

I have got a number of net cages there and the one very close to the shed was due for a rethink. First of all I was going to move it closer to the round net tunnel because I moved my cold frames somewhere else, they were in the wrong place. But then I realised that a few days ago I took a number of cuttings from my Daubenton kale and planted them in this net tunnel. I made a line of them, that will stay there and I won’t have to grow seedlings of kale – saves time, space and money. The rest of this tunnel will have lettuce, peppers and tomatoes, cabbages and different kinds of kale were there this year.

It was surprisingly easy to dismantle the net cage – nothing is wasted though, I managed to roll the net and keep it in the shed, that will be used to cover the strawberry beds next year and the posts are stashed away beside the shed. I’m sure they will come handy too.

All that’s left from the cage are my two giant cabbages. I covered them with a piece of the salvaged net because the birds always look for something to eat – why don’t they nibble weeds??

Talking of birds – I had to put some torn bits of an old video tape around my garlic as the birds were pulling the cloves out!

I decided to grow broad beans this year; I gave them a rest last year but as I have space in the two empty raised beds, why not. The soil was ready and as the sides are quite high it should protect the plants if they should be too tall.

This was the last thing to do on the main plot, all is finished and now I have to wait for next spring.

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In the meantime I’ll be digging the rest of my plots.

COOKING MARATHON

I managed to harvest a lot of produce yesterday so today was to be a day at home, cooking.

I brought home a lot of courgettes, of course, some beetroot and another bag of little apples. I followed the advice of Bob Flowerdew who said – thin the apples on the branches, go and have a cope of tea and when you come back to the tree, thin some more. I did just that and the result was a full carrier bag of reasonable little green apples – perfect for making jelly.

I was reminded also yesterday morning by my friend that she just finished my jar of garlic jelly. I quite forgot that I made it last year so this glut of little apples was just on time.

I used the recipe for chilli jelly from my favourite book of preserves and use crushed garlic instead of chillies. The result is delicious.

003The next on the list were the courgettes, apart from those I also picked some french beans and cauliflower, so I decided to make Piccalilli. This time the recipe is exactly as it appears in the book. Of course I had to start yesterday in the evening, soaking the veg in brine. It is quite a lengthy job but well worth it. Everybody says that my piccalilli is much better than the bought one.

002It took a bit of organising to fit it all into one day; the courgette chutney needed to start with sprinkling the sliced courgettes with salt and draw the water out but as one lot was cooking the other was waiting to be rinsed and drained. Beetroot was cooked last night and peeled so all I had to do was to make the chutney. These two were made using the recipes I already used, they’re very popular so I didn’t see any reason to look for new ones.

All in all I made 26 jars of preserves, managed to run out of turmeric (fortunately a nearby corner shop sells it) and the hose smells like an oriental spice stall.

FROM THIS….

…to all these goodies.

The courgettes are growing at a rate of knots! I went yesterday to pick some for my brother-in-law and for our evening salad, thought I got all the big ones but the reality was something else…

001I thought I’d better pick all the big ones and some small yellow ones and then the next question was – what to make?

No problem, I have got my favourite Courgette chutney recipe, I make it every year and it never lets me down.

006Even after making 5 large jars of this chutney I still had plenty left. I made my other favourite – a kind of stew. There is no recipe to follow, I just chop the courgettes, start with onion and garlic and some oil in a big pot, sweat it for a while, add all the courgettes and a carton of chopped tomatoes and some spice – it is always different because I change the spice mix. Bring to boil, turn down and simmer till the courgettes are soft, then eat one part and freeze the rest for later.

007I put it in 500g oblong dishes, fast freeze and take out of the dish, put in a plastic bag and put in the freezer.

My freezers are quite well organised, one has mainly frozen fruit, the other veg and the last one a mix of bought things and an overflow from the other freezers.

The result is that I don’t have to buy any frozen vegetables, it is all there from my allotment.